A federal jury today found two members of MS-13 guilty of attempting to murder rival gang members on Oct. 6, 2008, in a park near homes in Reston, Va. To date, seven MS-13 members have been convicted of gang-related murder charges in 2009 in the Alexandria federal court.
According to evidence at trial, Jose M. Aguilar Orantes, age 18, of Reston, Va., and Dennis L. Gil Bernardez, age 33, of Landover, Md., sought out members of the 18th Street and Crips gangs as retribution for an earlier assault on Aguilar Orantes. Aguilar Orantes and Bernardez located the two victims in a residential park, where they were sitting with a third victim, who was not a gang member. As they approached the three victims, Aguilar Orantes pointed out two of them to Bernardez as having been involved in the earlier attack. After pointing out the victims, Aguilar Orantes stepped back, as Bernardez pulled out a .357 revolver from his waistband and shot at the victims six times. One victim’s jacket was pierced by a bullet as he ran, the bullet barely missing him. The other two victims were critically wounded and taken to Fairfax Hospital suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.
After the shooting, another MS-13 gang member, Carlos B. Guzman Cruz, age 25, of Richmond, Va., assisted Bernardez in getting rid of the .357 used in the shooting. Cruz sold the .357 to a person in Richmond, Va., with the understanding that the gun would be hidden in an auto frame and shipped out of the country. Unbeknownst to Cruz, the person to whom he sold the gun was an FBI informant posing as an MS-13 gang member.
Today, Aguilar Orantes and Bernardez were found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, attempted murder in aid of racketeering, assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, and use and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence. Cruz was convicted of being an accessory after the fact to attempted murder in aid of racketeering and assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering. Bernardez and Cruz were also convicted of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm.
Dana J. Boente, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Joseph Persichini, Jr., Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office; Jennifer S. Love, Special Agent in Charge of the Richmond Division of the FBI, Colonel David Rohrer, Fairfax County Chief of Police; Toussaint Summers, Chairman of the Board of Chiefs of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force; and Thierry G. Dupuis, Chief of Police for Chesterfield County Police made the announcement.
Bernardez faces a maximum sentence of 160 years in prison, Aguilar Orantes faces a maximum sentence of 95 years, and Cruz faces a maximum sentence of 30 years when they are sentenced on Oct. 16, 2009.
This case was investigated by the Washington Field Office and Richmond Field Office of the FBI, the Fairfax County Police Department, the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force, and the Chesterfield County Police.